First look at Jim Mowrer's campaign for Iowa secretary of state

Vowing to fight for every vote to be counted and to “say no to making it harder and more expensive to vote,” Jim Mowrer launched his campaign for secretary of state on August 3. He is well-known to many Democrats as Representative Steve King’s 2014 opponent in the fourth Congressional district and Representative David Young’s challenger in the third district last year. Follow me after the jump for more on Mowrer’s case for his candidacy and against Secretary of State Paul Pate, including highlights from an interview with Bleeding Heartland.

Mowrer will have at least one competitor in the Democratic primary. Deidre DeJear launched her campaign on August 6. She’s on the web, Facebook, and Twitter. I recently spoke to DeJear about her background and goals and have a post in progress on her secretary of state campaign. Iowa Starting Line profiled her here.

State Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City has not ruled out the secretary of state race either, he told me in late July.

I’ve reached out to several county auditors who had floated the idea of challenging Pate in 2018. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald told me he is no longer considering a run for higher office. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert announced on Facebook on August 3 that Mowrer “has my full backing.” UPDATE: Two more county auditors endorsed Mowrer on August 7. Scroll to the end of this post for details.

Nathan Blake, who had been thinking about this race, confirmed two weeks ago that he has decided against it.

Because I believe the most dangerous thing about the Trump Republican Party is its disdain for democracy and its corresponding voter suppression efforts, I had been planning to run for Secretary of State in 2018. However, in May Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller asked me to take on a new role as a Deputy Attorney General. I believe I can do the most good over the next few years working for AG Miller to stand up for the rule of law, keep Iowans safe, and protect consumers. While I won’t be running for anything this cycle, I’ll continue to fight for voting rights and other progressive policies and I’ll evaluate opportunities to serve in elected office in the future.

Bill Brauch likewise considered running for secretary of state but will not be a candidate for any office next year. Instead, he told me, he will continue volunteering as the Iowa Democratic Party’s Third District Chair.

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Paul Pate angered by county auditors' criticism of voter ID bill

Stung by criticism of his proposal to enact new voter ID and signature verification requirements, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate accused some county auditors of pursuing a “partisan” agenda, as well as lobbing “blatant distortions,” “smears,” and “cheap shots.” Pate made the accusations during a legislative briefing for the Iowa State Association of County Auditors on March 9. Earlier that day, House Republicans had approved a version of Pate’s bill, ignoring feedback from many who warned the legislation would disenfranchise eligible voters.

At least four Democratic county auditors are considering running for secretary of state next year, largely because Pate has pushed for voter ID, Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register yesterday. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, and Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz will likely confer and “agree in advance on putting forward a single candidate,” they told Noble. Nathan Blake may also seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.

Pate didn’t call out any county auditors by name during his March 9 speech, but he sounded particularly enraged by Weipert, who has been a leading critic of the voter ID bill and testified against the proposal at a public hearing.

The Secretary of State’s Office made a recording of Pate’s remarks (which I requested on March 14) available to me only this morning. You can download the file through Dropbox. I enclose below my partial transcript. UPDATE: Embedded the video below, since the Dropbox link wasn’t working for some.

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Nathan Blake may run for Iowa secretary of state in 2018

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Nathan Blake is “seriously considering running” for Iowa secretary of state, he told Bleeding Heartland on March 6. “In the time of [President Donald] Trump, voting rights are at once more important than ever and under attack like never before,” he added. “It’s a daunting race, but Democrats need to contest it with a strong, well-funded candidate.” Blake plans to decide before this summer whether to run for the statewide office.

Earlier this evening, Blake spoke at a public hearing to oppose House File 516, which would create new barriers to voting through photo ID and signature verification requirements. He provided a copy of those comments, which I enclose below along with background on the potential candidate.

Blake ran for the Iowa Senate in 2014 but lost the Democratic primary to Tony Bisignano by an excruciating eighteen-vote margin. He has since filled a vacancy on the Des Moines School Board for part of one term and now serves on the City of Des Moines Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Polk County Democratic Central Committee, and the board of the Sherman Hill Association in his central Des Moines neighborhood.

Any comments about possible challengers to Secretary of State Paul Pate are welcome in this thread. A few county auditors in eastern Iowa are rumored to be considering the race. Someone needs to take the fight to a guy who postures about “election integrity” while his own office failed to realize that nearly 6,000 votes went uncounted in Iowa’s fastest-growing county last November.

Pate defeated Democrat Brad Anderson by about 20,000 votes (a roughly 2 percent margin) in the GOP wave of 2014.

UPDATE: A reader speculated that another possible challenger to Pate might be Bill Brauch, former director of the Consumer Protection Division in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and the current chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Third District Central Committee. However, Brauch told Bleeding Heartland on March 7 that he has decided against running for secretary of state.

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IA-03: Two questions for Democrats seeking alternatives to Matt McCoy

Iowa’s first U.S. House district will be the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s top pickup opportunity in Iowa next year, but the third district will be on the DCCC’s target list as well. Recognizing the competitive nature of IA-03, the National Republican Congressional Committee has put first-term Representative David Young in its incumbent protection program. However, Washington insiders are not keen on State Senator Matt McCoy, one of several Democrats who may challenge Young.

I’m not sold on any candidate for this race and won’t make up my mind until after the Democratic field has been set. That said, Democrats could do a lot worse than McCoy. I challenge those who would dismiss him as a credible challenger to answer two questions.

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Bisignano wins Iowa Senate district 17 as Blake opts against recount

Tony Bisignano will be the Democratic nominee in Iowa Senate district 17, as second-place finisher Nathan Blake declined to request a recount. From a Facebook status update Blake posted yesterday:

According to the official canvass from the Polk County Auditor’s Office, I ended up 18 votes behind in the Democratic primary election for Iowa State Senate District 17. I congratulate Tony Bisignano on a hard-fought victory. Thank you to my supporters, volunteers, and all who voted. Thanks especially to my wife and partner, Andrea, and our two kids for their patience, support, and sacrifices over the last year. I am proud of the campaign we ran. We won over 60% of the Election Day vote, even if we came up a few votes short.

As for the future, I am committed to to electing Democrats up and down the ballot in Iowa this November. I will continue my work in public service, fighting for consumers as an Assistant Iowa Attorney General. I promise to stay involved in progressive politics and will seek future opportunities to serve in elective office. The issues we care about are too important to sit on the sidelines.

A recount wouldn’t have changed the result, so I think Blake did the right thing not to go through the motions. He did manage a very strong election-day turnout, which is promising for any future candidacies.

Senate district 17 was the best chance for Democrats to elect Iowa’s first Latino state legislator, but two other opportunities remain this year in House district 60 and Senate district 47.

UPDATE: In a Facebook post, Bisignano said of Blake, “I can’t say enough about his poise and character. He has a very bright future in public service and I’m looking forward to helping him. His positive and respectful campaign shows what people want and expect from their public officals.”

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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